Sardar Patel wanted the whole of Kashmir, even if it meant war
Particularly significant are his views on Communists, Muslims and the conversion of Hindus as chronicled by his daughter.
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"We want the entire territory… and battle for the whole of Kashmir."- Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, July 23, 1949
October 31 is the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel.
The man, who would have been the first Prime Minister of India, chose to accept Mahatma Gandhi's advice and remain happy to be home minister in Jawaharlal Nehru's cabinet.
As history tells us, the Congress held a presidential election in the knowledge that its chosen leader would become India's head of government. Eleven Congress state units nominated Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, while only the Working Committee suggested Nehru.
Sensing that Nehru would not accept second place to Patel, Gandhi supported Nehru and asked Patel to withdraw, which he immediately did.
A man of highest personal integrity and a transparent public life, Sardar not only gave us an India without ulcers, but also had Lakshadweep integrated in time, which was eyed by Pakistan immediately after August 15, 1947.
He had the prudence to send naval ships to the island, barely informed of the independence, and thwarted a Pakistani navy attempt to seize the strategically located and almost "out-of-sight" island. Our naval ships had seen the Pakistani navy nearing Lakshadweep and had them returned.
Sardar integrated 562 princely states with the swiftness and alacrity of a Bismarck.
Nehru was given the task to have J&K merged. He not only turned it into a permanent pain in the neck but during his reign, we lost 1.25 lakh sqkm of Indian land to China and Pakistan.
Survey of India's map showing the J&K area is incomplete in the sense that we still have to take back the Aksai Chin and Gilgit region from China and Pakistan, which were annexed in 1947-48 by them. And the unpreparedness of India in 1962 is too well-known.
A few years ago I had bought a book titled Inside Story of Sardar Patel: The Diary of Maniben Patel (Vision books), which gives vivid detail of Sardar's thoughts and his clarity on various national issues. It's a dairy written meticulously by his daughter Maniben.
Rathin Das from Ahmedabad reported this year on July 12, 2011, that the entry in Maniben's diary on September 20, 1950, says that Sardar told Nehru that Babri Masjid's renovation was different from reconstruction of the Somnath Temple, for which a trust was set up that raised nearly Rs 30 lakh for the purpose.
Government money was not spent on reconstruction of the Somnath Temple, Sardar told Nehru, following which the Prime Minister kept quiet, Maniben's diary notes on September 20, 1950.
As Sardar Patel's wife, Zaverba, died very early, Maniben had taken up the multiple roles as daughter, secretary, washerwoman and nurse to the 'Iron Man' till his death on December 12, 1950.Kashmir has been a thorn in India's side for decades. (Photo credit: India Today)
Since 1936, Maniben had started maintaining a diary in which she recorded her illustrious father's daily events and comments.
Another entry, on September 13, 1950, quotes Ghanshyamdas Birla as saying "Nehru's whole family would have embraced Islam if they had not come in contact with Gandhiji".
Particularly significant are Sardar's views on Communists, Muslims and the conversion of Hindus as chronicled by Maniben.
It says Nehru tried to go soft on the Hyderabad action, apparently to appease Muslims. But the Sardar told C Rajgopalachari in no uncertain terms that nothing would stop him from pursuing strong action to remove "an ulcer", and that Nehru should remain within his limits.
The diary says: "Sardar Patel bluntly told Rajaji that he would not want the future generations to blame and curse him for allowing an ulcer in the heart of India. On one side is western Pakistan and on the other side eastern Pakistan (with their idea of (a) pan-Islamic bloc…(they want to) come to Delhi and establish the Mughal empire again. Once we enter Hyderabad, it is no longer an international affair. It is the state ministry's function. How long are you and Panditji going to bypass the ministry of the states and carry on?" (September 13, 1948).
Patel's hold over the Congress party organisation was certainly greater. Nehru considered Sardar a rival who could dethrone him. Maniben's diary, however, reveals Patel had no such ambition, particularly after he had given his word to Gandhi.
Upon the Patel-Nehru differences played many others, notably Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, the socialists, and even Maulana Azad. The diary reveals their manoeuvrings to oust Sardar from the Cabinet. Significantly, Nehru consistently ignored the many allegations of corruption against Kidwai, a fact that puzzled many Congress leaders.
The Sardar was happy to see Guruji Golwalkar, then RSS chief, released from jail and wanted to welcome RSS workers in the Congress. On August 3, 1949, says the diary: "Glad at release of Golwalkar - ready to welcome in Congress. Bapu's (Sardar's) task to make their entry easy."
Today, the Congress laments that Osama (bin Laden) was not given a fair burial, but won't say a word on the atrocities on Hindus in Bangladesh. The Sardar reacted differently under similar circumstances.
Maniben records: "Sardar Patel was not happy with the Nehru-Liaquat Ali Pact as it did not stop the exodus of Hindus from East Pakistan which went on increasing and a large number of Hindus continued to migrate to India. Sardar Patel observed that he was not so much worried about the killings, after all 30 lakh people had died in the Bengal famine, but he could not stand assaults on women and their forcible conversion to Islam." (April 5, 1950)
The Sardar further said: "Hindus had been totally finished in Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan and Frontier Provinces. It was being repeated in East Pakistan and people like Hafizur Rehman, who had stayed on in India, would be clamouring for (a) homeland in India. What would be our position then? Our posterity would call us traitors." (April 24, 1950)
Sardar Patel did not trust the Communists either. He told MO Mathai, Nehru's special assistant: "If we have to build up the nation, Communists would have no place there." (September 13, 1948)
He didn't know then that his photo would be used on the Congress manifesto, and that the same people would join hands with the Communists whom he had despised most.
Interestingly, Maniben mentions in her diary that Sardar had one common goal with Veer Savarkar. They differed on several issues but both of them wanted the "four crore Muslims in India to be loyal to the country; otherwise there was no place for them" (August 16, 1949).
The diary says: "Sardar Patel was very unhappy that Nehru had taken the Kashmir issue to the UN which tied India's hands. His idea was that India should extricate itself from the UN patiently and then solve the Kashmir problem forever. He was also unhappy when reports came that the fertile land left behind in Jammu by Muslim zamindars who had migrated to Pakistan was not being given to Hindu refugees. Instead, the Sheikh was insisting on settling only Muslim refugees on such land (May 1, 1949)… (there were reports) that the majority of government employees were pro-Pakistan."
Nehru was a close friend of Sheikh Abdullah, while the Sardar didn't trust him at all. The diary reveals that even Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, the former prime minister of Kashmir, felt that the Sardar could have solved the Kashmir issue if Nehru had not intervened.
"Bakshi Ghulam Mohammad, on the other hand, was insisting that the Sardar should settle the Kashmir issue as he had done Hyderabad. But Nehru would not allow it. Iyengar reported that the Sheikh wanted to have an independent Kashmir. Upon hearing this, the Sardar said he would ask the Maharaja to return to Jammu as he did not place any trust in Sheikh Abdullah." (May 12, 1949)
Maniben also refers to a discussion by some Nehru loyalists about the possibility of the partition of Kashmir, which involved India retaining Jammu and handing over the rest of the state to Pakistan. Patel retorted: "We want the entire territory… and battle for the whole of Kashmir." (July 23, 1949)
How unfortunate that the Congress never wanted the Sardar legacy to be remembered. It took four decades to honour his memory with a Bharat Ratna. Congress leaders' names would top the list of those who acted against the long term interests of the nation.
It's time we know more about the Sardar who gave us this India and inspired an RSS young man who would become Prime Minister and rediscover, revive, reinforce the legacy and the story of Sardar Patel.